By JEN CARDINES
A quiet room listened intently as Peter Baba shared a personal story of sacrifice and struggle. With full custody of four children and a mother not in the picture, Baba faced many obstacles to support his family, however, a local organization played a large role in shaping a positive future from a rocky past.
On Friday, March 24, the Southington YMCA kicked off their annual campaign with a breakfast that highlighted the way the organization transforms lives in the community—like Baba’s. Their goal is to collect $323,875 to help finance community projects.
There was no talk about additions or upgrades to the YMCA buildings or equipment. The annual campaign focuses on the work that the YMCA does outside the campus, in the community, for the people who truly need it.
“I would like to reassure our donors that every dollar donated to the YMCA’s Annual Support Campaign goes directly to giving a Y experience to those who can’t afford it,” said campaign chair Diane McNicholas-Botsacos.
During their family difficulties, two of Baba’s children, ages four and seven, receive financial support to attend the YMCA Learning Center and after-school care program.
“With the help of the YMCA, they went above and beyond,” said Baba. “You’re all a family, and family looks out for each other.”
According to McNicholas-Botsacos, 800 Southington residents were unemployed during 2016, an average of 148 infants and children participate in the state WIC program, and 29 percent of households live below the Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) threshold.
YMCA officials asked locals to “exercise your heart in more ways than one,” the 2017 campaign theme that Board of Directors president Dan Daigle introduced.
“Part of our goal this year is to reinforce in our community that our YMCA is not just a ‘gym and swim’ facility,” said Daigle. “We work year-round to give back and help to improve the Southington community.”
During breakfast, a video was projected on the big screen to show a number of examples demonstrating how the local organization benefits people of all ages throughout the year.
A 59-year-old cancer survivor, Mark Minor, joined the “Livestrong at the Y” program after his treatment to regain physical and psychological strength.
A six-year-old participated in the Race4Chase Triathlon, a children’s program developed by the parents of Chase Kowalski who was killed during the Sandy Hook shooting. It is designed to adopt a healthy lifestyle and give an athletic foundation while inspiring kids to aim high in sports and in life.
The kick-off breakfast highlighted the various facets of community outreach that stem from the Southington Community YMCA. In 2017, the organization needs to raise money for Camp Sloper scholarships, childcare, membership assistance, Y in the Afternoon Outreach Program, Race4Chase Triathlon, Livestrong at the Y, teen programs and more.
For more information about programs offered by the YMCA or to donate to the annual support campaign, visit www.sccymca.org or call the YMCA’s director of community development Shannon Eterginio at (860) 426-9510.